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Dow Corning OKs Implant Settlement

July 9, 1998 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ Neurological problems, full-blown lupus and short-term memory loss are among the problems Lynda Roth blames on a Dow Corning Corp. silicone breast implant that ruptured in 1990.

Now she and 170,000 other women who have sued the company are one step closer to getting $3.2 billion from Dow Corning after a federal bankruptcy judge tentatively approved a settlement plan Wednesday.

The offer, which still must be approved by the plaintiffs and Dow Corning’s creditors, is $200 million more than what the company previously offered to pay, but $600 million less than what the women sought.

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``I’m not optimistic I’ll get anything,″ said Roth, a Broomfield, Colo., woman who got sick after receiving the first of two implants after cancer surgery in 1990. The first silicone and saline implant ruptured.

Some claimants could get up to $250,000, said Leslie Bryan, a lawyer who served an advisory role for the plaintiffs. However, she said it would be difficult to say how much the average claimant would receive.

During the next two months, both sides will spell out the settlement in writing, then make it public. No date has been set for voting on the plan.

``I will settle because I’m tired of it,″ said Laurie Roberts, a Midland woman who received two Dow Corning implants after mastectomies in 1980. ``Emotionally, it has been really draining. I don’t feel any amount of money can compensate for the emotional and physical losses I’ve had.″

Dow Corning attorney Barbara Houser said it is almost impossible to predict when the money might be paid out.

Dow Corning was once the biggest maker of silicone gel breast implants, but lawsuits forced it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1995.

Studies of thousands of women have turned up no solid evidence that implants cause ailments, but the issue is still under debate among scientists and in the courts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Spector said claimants will be able to qualify for compensation to cover removal of the implants, as well as payments for ruptured implants and certain medical conditions. Women who would rather sue will still be able to do so.

The deal opens the way for women to be compensated for immune system illnesses allegedly caused by their silicone implants and to get payments for ruptured or leaking ones. Houser said the settlement is the ``take-it-or-leave-it proposal″ offered up last week mediator Francis McGovern, a Duke University professor.

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``You reach a time in any complex controversy when it’s in everyone’s best interest to agree or disagree with legal claims and find a resolution,″ Houser said.

Before Wednesday, the company’s $4.4 billion plan to pay its debts and emerge from bankruptcy had included a $3 billion payment to the implant plaintiffs over 16 years. The women wanted $3.8 billion, paid out over three years.

Silicone implants were introduced in 1962. After reports began surfacing about ruptured implants and possible heath effects, the Food and Drug Administration in the early 1990s banned purely cosmetic uses of silicone breast implants, but allowed their use for breast reconstruction in mastectomy patients.

Implants filled with saline solution rather than silicone remain widely available.